In the midst of the government shutdown, House Democrats have just released their own comprehensive immigration reform bill. Their likely aim is to keep immigration reform, which had been front and center since the 2012 elections, a hot topic as other issues occupy the national debate and relations between party leaders continue to deteriorate.
Recall that earlier this year, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that included the support of all Senate Democrats and 14 Republicans. The Senate’s bill has White House backing but is yet to be taken up by the House. The bill introduced by House Democrats largely mirrors the Senate bill that passed that Chamber, with the exception of its approach to border security measures. Unlike the Senate bill, which would vastly increase spending on border security and double the number of federal border agents, House Democrats have adopted the approach approved by the House Homeland Security Committee which creates a detailed plan for the apprehension of illegal border-crosses in high-traffic areas over the course of several years.
The House Democrats’ bill’s other major components – granting legal status to many of the nation’s unauthorized immigrants and a conditional pathway to citizenship, increasing the number of employment-based and family-based legal immigrants allowed in the United States within the next five years, and making employers’ use of E-Verify mandatory – substantially track what the Senate previously passed.
The House Republican leadership has stated it is adopting a narrower approach to immigration reform rather than the comprehensive approach reflected in the bill passed by the Senate and introduced by House Democrats. While it is unlikely that the House Democrats’ bill will get a vote in the House, their effort appears intended to keep pressure on House leaders and maintain, or re-establish, immigration reform as an issue of utmost importance in the immediate term.